Monday, December 26, 2011

Swimming with Pacific Sharks

I went swimming with 10 species of shark this year, six in the Pacific and four in the Caribbean.

Fiji was the only place I saw bull sharks.  These are supposed to be the most aggressive of all shark species and are responsible for just about all of the shark bites that your see in the media.  I actually got close enough to touch one, but no way in hell did I reach out.  They look too mean.  Even so, my experience was that these sharks were really, really timid.  I was taught when I was younger that a shark would sniff out a single drop of blood a mile away, but I saw 10-foot bull sharks afraid to take a tuna head from a feeder.   With that said, I don't think anyone will be trying tonic immobility with one of these guys any time soon.

I saw a lot of grey reef sharks.  I went diving with famed coral reef biologist Peter Houk in the Majuro Lagoon in July and encountered a school of about six juvenile grey reefs on a patch reef.  The little guys are supposed to be more aggressive than the bigger ones.

I saw whitetip reef sharks all over.  These are the little sharks that are seen sleeping at the bottom of Saipan's grotto.  I really, really like these guys.

They remind me of seals with the way they swim.  They are able to arch their bodies and wriggle into tight crevices to hunt for reef fish.  I did get to touch some of these (I know, I know, you're not supposed to!), not because I wanted to, but because they were really frisky and interested in my camera.

Do you know what kind of shark this is?  This is one of the juvenile grey reefs I mentioned above.  Looks a lot more alert than his older relative, huh?

These are the sharks I have the most experience with.  When I was younger my father would occasionally catch a blacktip reef shark with his fishing net.  He didn't like catching them because they would damage the net, and sometimes even swim away with the net.  We would play with the shark and then throw it back in the water.

And this is a whitetip about to bump me.  Sorry, I'm not the one with the tuna.

All of these photos were shot using a GoPro HD with a flat lens underwater housing (the rounded lens that comes with the camera can't focus underwater, which I figured out the hard way).  These sharks were all photographed on Shark Reef in Pacific Harbour, Fiji with Beqa Adventure Divers.  On my day off.

I also went swimming with tawny nurse sharks and sickle fin lemon sharks in Fiji and lemon, nurse, blacknose, and Caribbean reef sharks in The Bahamas.  I also swam with several species of ray, including giant mantas, blue spotted rays, and cow tail rays.  Tigers, whales, and great whites are on my bucket list.  What do you say, 2012?

The Coral Reef Alliance and an organization which I may or may not be affiliated with have information on their respective websites on efforts to protect these cool creatures.  This blog post is not associated with any organization.  I am the Saipan Blogger and I approved this message.

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